A young man came to me recently. He has just experienced his fourth department leadership change in three years. He was a mix of anger, frustration, and disappointment. He was losing hope in the organization and its leadership. The future concerns him because he wants stability. He asked for answers or at least my advice. What would you say?
I’ve been down this road before including the death of my business partner in the late 80s as well as the experience of having six different directors in a former position in three years! I did survive and learned from each of those experiences. I am better for those experiences.
Whenever I encounter these situations, my first focus goes to gratitude. What am I grateful for? What do I have rather than what do I want? I am richly blessed. On the back of my office door are many thank you notes, accolades and certificates of appreciation. They remind me of the relationships in my life. They tell me I am not alone. They are evidence of the significance I have made in people’s lives as well as the significance they have made in my life. They remind me life is good. They are a source of comfort and fortification when facing Ezekiel’s Valley of Bones.
One tool I pull out when the VUCA‘s are high (Volatility, Uncertainty, Chaos/Complexity, Ambiguity) is Joel Barker’s Implication Wheel. I begin by asking a thoughtful, challenging question, ‘what are the implications and potential consequences of the situation I am facing?’ I suspend emotion and engage in rational, constructive thinking. I have found over and over the Implication Wheel will not predict the future but will yield a guide toward a possibly better future. The Implication Wheel asks powerful questions leading to more questions and possible answers. It creates a way out of the swampland of despair.
If you were faced with this young man’s situation, you might ask, “What are the implications of having a new department director?” Use a big piece of butcher block paper or several flipchart sheets and write out complete, understandable responses on 3M Post-it Notes. This should generate at least five possibilities such as: There will be a search for a new director including having an interim director; I get the opportunity to learn and grow from a new leader; My department could reorganize, rightsize or even downsize; I may gain/lose resources that impact my work; There will be stress and uncertainty in this transition. Each of these implcations should generate another set of implications, possibilities and consequences in each of these five. You may find there are futher implications recognized off each of those implications. What you end up with is a kind of mind-map.
After you complete this, go back and look at each statement and begin the process of asking important questions like: Who controls this? Who has the power to impact this implication? What is the possible timeline for this to evolve? What are the inside and outside influences upon this implication? At this point it might be good to share this Implication Wheel with others to get their perspective. Ultimately, you are looking for and rating the desirability and likelihood of each implication you have generated. It will reveal the choices and commitments you need to make. The outcome of this exercise can strenghten your hope for a better future as well as a call to action. Additionally, this exercise will dial down fear.
FEAR could be an acronym for Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours. Choose courageously.